David Byrne selling original illustrations in gallery exhibit, talks election, Janelle Monae & more
David Byrne has been doing hand-drawn illustrations, "dingbats," for his Reasons to be Cheerful online mag since its launch in 2018, including, more recently, its We Are Not Divided multimedia project. Speaking to The Guardian, Byrne said that drawing took on a particular importance to him during coronavirus lockdown. "I kept telling myself I was OK,” he said, “but like a lot of people, there were mornings when I’d wake up, stare at the ceiling and ask myself, 'What am I doing today...and why?’ There have been moments where you start to wonder what it is all for."
Describing his drawings to The Guardian, Byrne said, "They’re not explicitly about lockdown or being alone. But that’s the undercurrent. Doing something creative like this becomes a kind of therapy, where your fears and anxieties come out. Things you maybe daren’t say to yourself, much less to other people. So someone may look at them and say, ‘Oh, so is that what you really think?’"
The illustrations will exhibited in a virtual show at NYC's Pace Gallery starting on Thursday, October 15, and running through Monday, November 2. They'll be on sale for $3,000 each, and Byrne told The Guardian that money raised will go to writers, editors, and designers at Reasons to be Cheerful.
About the exhibit, Pace writes:
David Byrne's dingbats drawings explore themes and preoccupations associated with daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic, from uncanny scenes of domestic life to surreal figurative illustrations, steeped in metaphor of a mind plagued by loneliness.
Meanwhile, Byrne told The Guardian that he has not read Chris Frantz's new memoir, saying, "I knew that if I read it I would get asked about it. So I’ve avoided it."
He also spoke with Esquire, along with Spike Lee, about the American Utopia HBO special, which begins airing on the service on Saturday, October 17. Their conversation touched, among other things, on their concerns about the upcoming election. "I’m scared about the election," Byrne said. "Just the other day, I started reaching out to some voting organizations, because I want to see if it makes sense for me to go to, say, Pennsylvania to get people in a swing state to vote, and to make sure that everybody who wants a mail-in ballot gets one. I think I’ll do it."
Lee, after saying he was also scared, continued, "This guy [Trump] is going to do anything to win. It’s going to be skullduggery, shenanigans, subterfuge. And also, I feel that if we don’t come out to vote in the numbers we need for a landslide that’s not in his favor, he’s going to contest the election. I don’t think he’s going to want to leave the White House. This thing is not a lock. I don’t care what the polls say."
They also discussed American Utopia's use of Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout." "You know, I was just listening to the lyrics," Spike Lee said. "'Say their names, say their names.' And there was an opportunity to show their faces, too. But here’s the sad thing. Every time I went to the show, we’d say, 'Well, here’s another name that we need to add next week. And here’s another.' After we finished shooting, we added Breonna Taylor, we added George Floyd."
"I loved the song when I first heard it," Byrne said, "because it reminds you of the humanity of these people who’ve been murdered. You know, they are not just numbers or something you read in the newspaper. This person had a name. And that takes it out of being some kind of political football. It’s something where you go, 'This is not the way we should be with one another.'"
Read the full interview on Esquire.